by Bill Batson
The walls of the Art Cafe celebrate drawing, painting and photography. The building is an exquisite example of the reserved Italianate architectural style. The food gets great reviews from guests. In form and function, Art Cafe lives up to its name.
The eatery on South Broadway is a family business. The owner and manager, Dan Kramer, drew on the experience of his family to launch the business in 2006. Dan’s mother, who was born in Israel to a family that has been in Jerusalem for nine generations, learned the art of cooking and hospitality from her mother, Pnina. Dan developed his business sense from his uncles who run enterprises in Toronto and New York. The menu is based on the health-conscious diet practiced by his entire family.
When they first opened, Art Cafe occupied only half the bottom floor of 65 South Broadway and had barely enough space to hang an exhibit. But visual art was not the creative discipline that inspired the cafe’s name. The canvasses that Dan sought to display were the surfaces of the hot beverages that he served. Baristas in Israel had been making elaborate designs on the tops of lattes for a decade. Dan introduced Latte Art to Nyack.
If location is a major factor in the success of a business, Art Cafe is a study in being in the right place at the right time. However, the building had to be relocated for the alignment to be perfect. Originally built in 1871 for Elise Depew Stevenson across the street, this house was moved sometime between 1903 and 1910 to make room for the Post Office. Where it now sits, the building is bracketed between the library and the Post Office, two public institutions that attract constant foot traffic.
The cramped circumstance of their interior space was vastly improved four years ago when the business they shared the building with, Klay Gallery, moved, allowing the Art Cafe to expand into the entire ground floor. The final location blessing comes from being situated on the path of the great bicycle migration route that runs through the village.
Dan draws inspiration from his customers to percolate new ideas, as well as coffee. A regular series of evening programs, called Smart Cafe, was an outgrowth of conversations that Dan had with his guests. “I was so invigorated by the projects that people were telling me about, I wanted to share that energy and those ideas with others.” On February 17, local writers will gather on the back porch of the Art Cafe for an evening of literary sparks and conversation hosted by Seranam Literary Arts. Writers of all genres are invited to read, listen and enjoy. You can attend these literary workshops every other Tuesday in the back room of the Art Cafe from 7-8:30p.
Art Cafe is now open late night Fridays and Saturdays from 9pm to 1am. Art Cafe After Dark offers a speakeasy atmosphere that encourages guests to bring their musical instruments and give impromptu performances. Games are also available including Connect 4, Chess, and more.
The current visual art exhibit is from the Rockland Living Museum (RLM). RLM is an art therapy program based at Rockland Psychiatric Center. “We try to spread the joy and beauty of art-making and being connected to nature,’ said Chris Randolph, a licensed art therapist and the founder and director of RLM. The therapeutic benefits of the program are not limited to the participants. Spending a few minutes admiring the work by RLM artists is elevating and enlightening.
Music, workshops and exhibitions are however, the hors d’oeuvres and dessert. The main course at Art Cafe is the food and drink. The menu is inspired by the all-encompassing Israeli-Kibbutz style breakfast, a meal that includes juices, eggs, bread, salads with cheese dips and olive tapenades and of course, coffee. Art Cafe recently added craft beers and wine to their offering.
Dan thinks that American cafes have become like self-service filling stations, where people are moved through quickly with take-out orders in hand. He has modeled Art Cafe on the European cafe custom where patrons are encouraged to sit unhurried, and savor aromas, flavors and ambiance for hours, not nano-seconds. The result is a vibrant venue brimming with excellent food, fine art and compelling conversation.
To learn more, visit artcafenyack.com.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: Art Cafe” © 2015 Bill Batson. In Dec. 2014, Batson published “Nyack Sketch Log, An Artist and Writer Explores The History of A Hudson River Village.” Copies of the book can be purchased at billbatsonarts.com.